Fancy Food Fast

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Once again, I have for you a story of something out of nothing. A glut of asparagus. A rapidly defrosting freezer. And then, one of the prettiest dinners I have made in quite some time.

The base is puff pastry from the story. A mixture of cream cheese and chopped herbs is topped with a single layer of trimmed, thin asparagus. Baked for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, and then you can present a dish that looks like you have worked for hours. I envision this as a lovely appetizer at cocktails or a light lunch with a salad of tomatoes. So hurry off to the kitchen and no one else will be the wiser.

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Filed under Savory Tarts & Quiches

Crispy, Golden Polenta

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My family has very strong opinions about polenta. It’s one of the foods traditional to the valley I was born and holds an important spot in my mother’s food identity. Goodness forbid you try to serve her a quick-cook polenta or something out of those vacuum packs. She will have no mercy.

For her, polenta is cooks for a full hour., over low heat with occasionally stirring. I remember a vacation in which we went skiing with some friends. One of the adults was a professional chef. After a long day outside, we can back to find him whipping polenta in the kitchen. I thought my mother was going to have a conniption.

This is not my mother’s polenta.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love her polenta. It is creamy and rich without the aid of butter, cream, or cheese. But this is a quick dinner polenta. Delicious with a pile of sauteed mushrooms and a Caesar salad. Crisped up in a pan. Since it is so fast, it works in the early summer too. It would be fantastic topped with fresh tomatoes and cheese or perhaps sauteed zucchini with garlic.

Crispy Polenta
serves 2 as a main

1/2 c course ground cornmeal
2 c water
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in cornmeal. Return mixture to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook 10-15 minutes until the mixture has thickened.

Preheat a skillet pan with some olive oil. Pour hot cornmeal into skillet pan. Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Flip and fry on other side. Slice and serve.

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Filed under Italian, Misc, Rice & Grains

San Francisco Dreamers

As some of you may know, I have been exceptionally busy this summer with a wedding in less than 6 weeks. But I was able to get away for a little bit thanks to work and see some of the West Coast. I’d have to say that San Francisco is even more beautiful than I could have imagined. If I was going to move to the West Coast, it would be at the top of the list of destinations!

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The hills were all that they were chalked up to be. I packed Moleskine and thick socks, which were not exactly fashionable but saved my feet. I was really impressed and inspired by the landscape and flora. It must have a very similar climate to the northern Italian coast. I saw Bougainvillea, succulents, and honeysuckle. The Presidio was one of the strangest places I’ve ever seen. It seemed like a Disney-fied version of a military base, which I suppose it is.

Fisherman’s Wharf was foggy when I stopped by but I was able to see a few sea lions. I instead spent more time in the Embarcadero, a magical tunnel of all the food you could ever want to eat. I was able to pick up some amazing dried beans and Rancho Gordo and a bite of cheese at Cowgirl Creamery. I could have spent hours in the Ferry Plaza market outside! Unlike the indoor stores, the outdoor stalls are only available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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An Excellent Start to the Weekend

11078216_10204540933386910_7670197716594205915_oSometimes your weekend needs  little nudge into awesomeness. Just like sometimes I need a little nudge to publish something (sorry about that). This is an excellent nudge and I knew I couldn’t not share it with you. Sausage and gravy is one of my favorite things to order at old country diners. You know the kind, preferably with a cow painted on everything.

Apparently Bobby Flay’s wife loves it too. Lucky lady. Thus far, if I want biscuits and gravy, I have to make them. But maybe that will change. For now I remain the biscuit champion in our little world!

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Filed under American, Breads & Biscuits, Meat & Fish

The magic of peanut butter

rice krispie valentines

Like many delicious things (Popsicles spring to mind), these treats were a happy accident. I didn’t leave soda outside though. I was making adorable heart-shaped rice krispie treats when I realized I needed to make vegetarian-friendly treats as well. Because it is ridiculously cold out, I didn’t want to go out and search for vegan marshmallows or Fluff or something I wasn’t going to use again.

As usual, the internet came through with something delicious! If you don’t eat corn syrup, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve seem some recipes with some kind of brown rice syrup…I’m not sure I can recommend it because I’ve never worked with it.

I don’t have photos of them, just of their pink gelatin-based cousins. But I assure you, they were a big hit and anything shaped like a heart is always adorable.

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Filed under Cookies & Bars, Vegetarian

Chewy, Minty Goodness

peppermint patty cookiesI am a bad person. I promised to post these cookies some time ago. And , in my defense, I thought that I had.

Apparently, all I had actually accomplished was  typing up the recipe. The story behind these cookies is actually a bit longer than the recipe though. In the beginning of October, whilst out grocery shopping at BJs (a wholesale club, for those not in the know), I realized we hadn’t yet bought Halloween candy. Why I thought it would be a good idea to buy Halloween candy in bulk, I am not sure. The point is that we ended up with 175 individual York Peppermint Patties.  And not a single trick o’ treater.

We weren’t in fact home during the  scheduled Halloween session so that is partially our fault. But why do kids trick o’ treat between 5-6 pm nowadays? Very strange. Anyways, we thought we’d be ok. After all, mints tend to prevent overindulgence. Or so we thought. My impressive stamina in the quest for all thins sugary shocked us both. Quickly, I began to search for a recipe which would allow me to use up some of our stash.

Peppermint patty ice cream? Sounds heavenly but I have no ice cream maker.
Peppermint patty cake? Well, it’s really just chocolate cake with peppermints on top, plus it is a paint to serve.
Peppermint patty cookies? Now that could work. And They would be easy to share.

And so I have.

Chewy Peppermint Cookies
Adapted from Alice Medrich via Orangette

4 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
7 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 c flour
1/3 c yogurt, plain (I use nonfat)
½ c York Peppermint Patties, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. This is a must!

Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl. Sift in cocoa powder and blend well. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir. The dough will become very thick indeed. Carefully add the yogurt. Once the dough is uniform, stir in the Peppermint Patties. Try not to crush them completely, though some casualties are to be expected.

Scoop out about 1 inch balls of dough. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the tops look set. After 5 minutes or so, transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool completely. Hopefully, they will have set up enough. They can be rather structurally weak if the Patties have melted out (this is also why we lined the baking sheets!)

 

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Filed under Cookies & Bars

Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald: Book Review

This month’s book may be late but it is well worth your attention. Therese Anne Fowler has written a novel on Zelda Fitzgerald. It covers shortly before her 18th birthday to F. Scott’s death in 1940 and slightly beyond.

It details their wartime courtship, quiet New York City wedding, and subsequent move to Long Island, whose lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle inspired Great Gatsby. In a search for quiet life, the couple moved to Paris where Scott became involved with a new set including Hemingway. It provides another side to the Hemingway/Fitzgerald friendship which has made me rethink Hemingway as an author. I knew there was a reason for his macho-man persona!

Zelda’s mental problems naturally make up a part of the storyline. Frankly, they seem as much Scott’s problem as anything which is wrong with her. True, she is feisty and a little wild, but she is nothing compared to today’s socialites and reality TV stars. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have been happier if she lived nowadays, without Scott’s constant desire to provide for her and to prevent her from excelling in anything she would like to do.

Zelda’s writing was published under Scott’s name, her ballet career was halted, and her painting restricted, at least in the story. I don’t know how accurate a text it is, but I don’t really care. I found the book enthralling and really beautiful. So often the picture that we have a Zelda Fitzgerald is a partial one. Hemingway’s vicious characterization in A Moveable Feast. Scott’s skewed portrait in Tender is the Night. The wild and lost Zelda of the film Midnight in Paris.

Finally, Zelda is given her own voice. And, boy, does she have a story to tell.

 

 

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